This week, I will be making the case for each of the potential candidates to be selected No. 1 overall in fantasy football drafts, starting with Todd Gurley. The order over the next four days is based on FantasyPros current expert consensus rankings, so our draft rankings—which you can access right now via Fantasy Consigliere—may vary.
Why He Should Be The Top Pick
Sean McVay’s offense
Todd Gurley was a star before Sean McVay came to town, as he rushed for 229 times for 1,106 yards (4.8 YPC) and ten scores as a rookie in 2015. However, there is no denying that McVay had an extremely positive impact on the Rams in his first season by turning the NFL’s worst scoring offense (14.0 PPG) into the NFL’s best scoring offense (29.9 PPG). There are contributors everywhere—quarterback Jared Goff, wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp—but Gurley was and once again will be the cog that makes the attack go.
He just turned 24
Yes, Gurley—who turned 24 at the beginning of the month—went for 2,000 total yards as a 23-year-old and scored ten touchdowns as a 21-year-old. He just signed a four-year, $57-million contract extension to stay in Los Angeles through the 2023 season, but the young runner isn’t resting on his laurels, with Sean McVay saying, “if anything he’s been working harder” since the new deal. Gurley is still just a kid in his athletic prime, and it’s all football, all the time for him, which should be a comfort to fantasy owners considering him at the top of drafts.
The fact that people seriously considered Gurley a bust after the 2016 season was laughable, and there isn’t much of an argument against him as the best running back in the NFL after a season in which he totaled 2,093 yards and 19 touchdowns. Despite packing power in a six-foot-one frame, Gurley can turn the corner with the best of them to outrun defenders down the sideline and potentially to the end zone; plus, his impressive receiving ability was on full display last year. If Los Angeles’ offensive centerpiece breaks more big plays on the ground (just one run of 40+ yards last season, compared to five as a rookie), he could be even better than he was in 2017.
Why He Shouldn’t Be The Top Pick
Efficiency will be tough to repeat
As a receiver in particular last season, Gurley was phenomenal with a 64/788/6 line that would make a lot of wideouts jealous; also, his eye-popping 12.3 yards per reception was only bested by Chris Thompson (13.1 average) at the running back position, and Gurley had as many receptions of 40+ yards (four) as Julio Jones. It might not be wise to count on a repeat performance, though, and opponents will likely pay more attention to the former first-round pick in the passing game.
Rams play a first-place schedule
Overall, will defenses be more prepared for McVay’s attack in 2018? Gurley himself said about the upcoming season, “It’s going to be even harder now, obviously, to be able to do what I did last year. I mean, obviously the teams are going to gameplan,” which is true, especially against a first-place schedule. To start the season, LA will face a Raiders team that I think is going to be tough against the run with Jon Gruden bringing toughness back to Oakland, then they face three of the best all-around defenses in the league (v ARI, v LAC, v MIN). And in the fantasy playoffs, things project to be tough against the Bears, Eagles, Cardinals, and 49ers.
Jared Goff could make a leap
Going for over 2,000 was key in 2017, but the biggest reason that Todd Gurley was so dominant as a fantasy option was his ability to find the end zone. However, if Jared Goff (3,804 yards and a 28:7 touchdown-interception ratio last year) makes a statistical leap in his third season—when quarterbacks often really breakout—things could be different in 2018. The former first-overall pick throwing for 35+ touchdowns wouldn’t surprise me at all, and it would in all likelihood lead to a scoring regression for Gurley.
Understandably, Todd Gurley is seen as the top pick in fantasy drafts after scoring 62 more non-PPR fantasy points than any other running back last season, and owners can take solace in the fact that, at 24-years-old, he will remain the centerpiece of arguably the best offense in the NFL.